Figueroa-Levin: Staten Island has become a bridge toll too far
I go to Staten Island a lot. I'm from there, and my parents and brother live there. And aside from that, it's a really nice place to visit.
There's one downside, however: Getting there is expensive.
As of last month, it costs $15 to cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. While there's a discount for E-ZPass users and for Staten Island residents, people who don't live there or have an E-ZPass pay out the nose to go.
Yes, I know that there are cheaper bridges from New Jersey, but that's out of the way (gas costs money, too) for many people in Brooklyn and Queens.
And the ferry is free, of course, but much of the island doesn't have easy public transportation for getting around once you're over there. The Staten Island Railway covers only a small part of the island.
So driving is necessary -- unless you consider waiting 45 minutes for a bus a good time. It would take me over two hours to get to my parents' house via public transportation from where I live.
There's no pedestrian or bike access on the Verrazano, like there is on the East River bridges and the George Washington Bridge. The mayor said he would look into it in 2003, but 10 years later all we have is higher tolls and talk of a Ferris wheel. You'd think pedestrian access would be right up his alley -- walking 4,260 feet could burn a lot of soda calories!
On behalf of all Staten Island expatriates living abroad (in other boroughs) I would like to ask for a Staten Island native bridge toll discount. The loss in revenue will be more than made up for with all the food Staten Island mothers will buy to feed us (Jewish moms, Italian moms . . . it's all the same -- they like feeding people).
There are a lot of things on Staten Island worth visiting. Maybe more people from more places would visit them -- and spend money stimulating the economy -- if they didn't have to pay two arms and a kidney (or set aside large chunks of time) to get there.
But the city is big, and there are soda-size limits to fight for, and Styrofoam to ban, and schools to ignore -- so it looks like Staten Island is back to being forgotten. Staten Islanders voted to leave the city in 1993, but the state wouldn't let us.
It might be worth trying again. As they say, if at first you don't secede . . .
Rachel Figueroa-Levin tweets as @Jewyorican, @EveryGentrifier and @ElBloombito.